“Ready, set, go!” Saya Miyazawa yelled before leaping over her teammate Zoe Stephens and landing in a blur of twirling red and white.
Their coach, Jenny Mentzer, watched attentively and encouraged the girls to stay on beat as their jump ropes whipped through the air and slapped against the Prospect Elementary School gym floor.
To the Oberlin Jump Rope Team, or OB Jump, the competitive sport has almost nothing in common with its schoolyard predecessor. The team will take its talents for the first time Saturday from the school gym to the World Jump Rope Competition and Camp in Florida.
The four members will spend 10 days in Orlando, including five days of competition and a camp where they will have the opportunity to learn from jump rope champions and record-holders.
The students have traveled to smaller competitions around Ohio where they’ve won ribbons and trophies — but Mentzer, who’s also a physical education teacher at Prospect, said these smaller events do not compare to the competition in Florida. There will be 800 jumpers of all ages competing from around the world.
Along with Stephens and Miyazawa, OB Jump athletes Helen Levy and Aarohi Mehta will compete against others their age in speed and power, freestyle, and double-Dutch events.
“It’s a lot of dedication. We practice year-round. There aren’t many sports that do that,” Mentzer said. “These girls are the best athletes in the whole school.”
In the speed and power events, they will try to make wire ropes go as fast as possible while judges count their jumps. In the freestyle events, alone and in pairs, the jumpers perform tricks and incorporate gymnastic moves, including hand stands and cartwheels, all set to upbeat pop music. Tricks are judged based on difficulty level.
“People don’t see people jump rope that much, so when you do your best trick in front of people, they’re always like, ‘Wow! How can you do that?’ Stephens said while the others giggled. Miyazawa nodded and said her favorite part is being able to jump rope anywhere, anytime.
“In jump rope, the skill of being a risk-taker is just huge. You have to try. If you’re afraid to try a trick because you might miss, you’re never gonna get a trick,” said Mentzer. “You have to try and try again.”
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.